Disgruntled

I have absolutely no reason to be cranky. I am still working; in fact, yesterday my wonderful employer gave us guarantees for the next few weeks to assure we have no additional financial stress during this unprecedented time we’re living in. My co-workers are thoughtful and entertaining, and I have access to great, often free workouts. We are healthy, and yet…

… yesterday, I couldn’t get out of my own, foul head. My shoulders stayed up by my ears, I was churlish, and I came home with a tension headache for no good reason, despite being given a generous helping of my favorite local kettle corn most unexpectedly.

Here’s the problem; I am a fixer. I thrive on being part of the solution, and right now, that means just sitting back, waiting, watching. I don’t know how long this is going to last, or what the world will look like on the other side. I spent 20 years watching and waiting for change, and despite that, I’m not very good at it.

Yes, it’s a control issue. I am a work-aholic and I don’t like having my hours limited, even when I’m compensated in a fashion that doesn’t put my basic needs in jeopardy. Like my wee little dog, I like routine. I like Saturday mornings at The Gym with the ladies group, and file it under things I’ve learned about myself, but I don’t like planning what I’m going to eat 10 days in advance, and I don’t like someone else picking out my groceries for me.

I’m a toucher. I find it nearly impossible to stay six feet away from my work family. I enjoy seeing the blooper videos of the dog/kids that didn’t make it on social media, head to head on their phones. I enjoy sharing handfuls of peanut butter pretzels whilst talking about weekend plans. I pat backs, squeeze shoulders and high-five more than I realized, and I miss those little things.

But I *AM* supremely grateful. I am not a front line healthcare worker, literally putting my life on the line. I am not doing battle with the unemployment bureaucracy. I am not worried about where the next round of groceries will come from, unless I do give in and use an ordering service, because most of them are booking more than a week out. I am healthy. My friends and family are healthy thus far, minus some once-removed folks who are recovering nicely. I have access to plenty of workouts and fitness professionals, and I have Gretchen Greer, who is always up for a run, even if her pace is slower than it once was.

I’m going to try a new salmon recipe, and see what I can do with rice, because plain is boring.

How are you doing?

Baby Murph

So… I wrote this last week and it didn’t publish. Let’s add wishes for a happy Easter and see what happens this time?

I need to be working toward something or I get sloppy, lazy, etc. I have no way of knowing what Murph 2020 will look like, but I’m going to be ready.

In case you didn’t click over, the Murph is Memorial Day tradition that honors a fallen hero. His go-to workout was run a mile, 300 squats, 200 push-ups, 100 pull-ups and another mile to finish it out. Sounds simple enough, but it’s brutal, especially when it’s hot and humid and you are looking to best your time from the previous year.

I first did the Murph two years ago. I had to cheat – er, use modifications – on both push-ups and pull-ups, and my goal last year was to do an “honest” (my term) Murph, meaning no modifications. My elbow/shoulder mobility issue reared its head and by Memorial Day, both push-ups and pull-ups weren’t an option so… I didn’t participate.

This year, I’m prepared for the squats and push-ups, but pull-ups still elude me, so guess what I’m working on during this can’t go to the gym era? I still can’t do more than a couple in a row, and even then, I’m not sure my gym teacher would count them; I can’t risk neck strain to get my chin over the bar, and it doesn’t happen often organically. Luckily, Memorial Day is still 7 weeks away.

The pull-up bar lives over the doorway, and I use it at least three times each week, but my real training plan is Sunday is Baby Murph Day. I run a mile (or today, given a grumpy right foot unrelated to running, I jumped rope for 10 minutes), and then do 10 sets of body weight squats, push-ups and pull-ups, with the quantities of each exercise increasing each week, and then do 15 minutes of some sort of cardio to finish out to equal the final mile which is frankly, as grueling as the pull-ups.

Gretchen loves the runs/jumping rope on the deck, but finds the rest boring. She is quite spry for a “senior” dog; I don’t think she knows she’s supposed to be slowing down and I hope it stays that way. We had to have a serious discussion yesterday when she wanted to wrangle a nest of baby black snakes too close to the house. The front yard is now off-limits because girlfriend can’t turn off her hunting instincts.

I am still working a modified schedule, and we are quite well otherwise. How are you and yours?

Practice

So… I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing. Thank you COVID-19 and the shortened work week; I WILL use these days to put words on the screen. (Pen on paper? I don’t even remember the last time I wrote in a journal that way. Hmmm… I’m sure I have blank books hidden around here. Should I do that too?)

I’m also paying a lot of attention to my feet. No, not in a fetish kind of way. Holistically, functionally, our feet are taken for granted, or at least mine are. I’ve known for years that my weight, my hips, my knees and my back are all interdependent in ways I don’t even care to wholly understand, but for some reason, it took eaves dropping on a group training with some college athletes at my gym several weeks ago (you know, back when gyms were open and it was still safe, even healthy, to sweat with strangers in a closed space) for me to realize I need to wiggle my toes more.

My ankles, especially Mr. Right (who is really Mr. Most Likely to Complain), have been rigid and problematic for most of my life. My calf (the left, I think?) is the reason I stopped running last time and spent months (read: years) working on strength and mobility. My strength is good, and probably has always been better than average, but my mobility still is sub-par, and I’m using this time to roll my feet (body tempering) and do other foot and ankle movements, even when I’m just sitting still.

(As I type, I’m alternating great toes down while other toes are up, and hard for me, other toes down and big toes up. Try it. Is one movement easier than the other?)

I’m not watching a lot of network TV. Pandemic updates find me, and honestly, I am empathetic enough that I don’t need to wallow in fear and bad/sad news. As is usually the case, others have it much worse than I do, and I’m grateful for those who are not financially impacted by this sci-fi, life imitating art world we are in.

If you’re not seeing my Facebook posts, you may not know that Gretchen is sleeping, eating, running and hunting, not necessarily in that order. She still has a thing for lizards and snakes, but I doubt her reflexes are what they used to be, so more than ever, I’m trying to keep her safe. Thankfully, our vet re-opened yesterday, so at least I don’t have to keep plan B in my pocket, during their business hours.

How are you doing? Is there something we can do to make this easier for you?

Essential Services

The firefighter I used to be laughed at automotive services being declared essential services. Yes, we are the contracted vehicle maintenance shop for the University and some local police, fire and rescue units, but then yesterday, two doctors thanked us for being open because they too need to remain mobile.

This is not a time for judgment. I’d argue it’s never wise to judge, but that’s another story for another time. There are plenty of folks talking about what you should and shouldn’t do, and I’m not an expert, so…

What is essential? Good food. Exercise. Fresh air. Staying connected. I’m grateful my tribe filled my voids; I now have rice, broccoli and ground beef. I also found a silly, wonderful peanut butter whiskey (see my Facebook or Instagram) and crafted what I’m calling Eggs Benny-ish.

I love eggs Benedict. I bought The Pampered Chef stoneware egg pan just to do poached eggs. This morning, I felt the urge to break it in, but alas, no English Muffins, no Canadian Bacon. I rarely follow a recipe as written, so…

Eggs cooked per instructions ( 80 seconds on high in microwave). Biscuits split, covered with cheddar and deli ham, then put back in the warm (but turned off) oven whilst whipping up the hollandaise sauce. Eggs added on top, sauce slopped on and… yum.

How goes it where you are? What can we do to help?

Gretchen wants it known she had her teeth brushed today. She didn’t fight me nearly as much as I anticipated. We will be doing it at least once weekly from here on out, more often if I can figure out the routine.

Ides of March

Beware the ides of March.

There’s lots to beware of right now, but the original use of that phrase meant it was the deadline for settling debts, not a foreshadowed death day. Shakespeare made the phrase famous, along with lots of others. I love quotes and etymology, and I’m still surprised at all the phrases credited to Shakespeare. (All that glitters is not gold, for instance…)

I also love comfort food. I made chicken and dumplings in the Instant Pot last night (note: Italian seasoning isn’t a great substitute for poultry seasoning), and I’m making tuna noodle casserole tonight, but what you need to know about is Southern Living’s Pecan Pie Brownies.

Basically blogless Susan found it first. Right now, I think she and I are passing more recipes back and forth than books or dog photos, and that’s saying something. The only change is if you actually like the taste of bourbon, more than double the amount in the pecan topping. She followed the recipe, I doubled it, and neither of us feels there’s anywhere close to enough bourbon flavor.

Regardless, it’s amazingly rich, delicious and while it won’t cure what ails you (I’m still more concerned about the local gastric bug than the pandemic, but appreciate the buffer social distancing will add), it will allow you to get lost in your taste buds for a little while. Last night I had it with a glass of milk, but it would love a cup of coffee too.

(I haven’t worked on my food photography skills, so just follow the link if you need a visual, but really what you need is a scent-o-matic screen. I couldn’t wait for them to completely cool before serving, and while it looked like… potting soil and sugared pecan bits, it still tasted great. It’s all set up and firm now, so if tonight’s slice comes out and I am not too eager to get it in my mouth, maybe I’ll try a photo.)

Sweet Potato Pie

Just a quick follow-up here…

Cottage pie is a staple now. Potatoes are arguably my favorite starch, and sweet potatoes are even better. There’s now a debate on whether they really are good for dogs, but my dogs have always loved them, and Gg still gets a bit of dehydrated sweet potato twice daily, to stave off the early morning hunger pangs and to give her stomach acid something to work on while we sleep at night.

This is a great recipe. (photo credit to healthyfitnessmeals.com) I was skeptical about the potato topper with no extra moisture (read: butter), but don’t mess with it, except to add cumin and cayenne pepper to taste. We’ve found those two spices LOVE sweet potato and ground turkey, so after trying the recipe unaltered, I will now add a dash of cumin and a healthy shake of cayenne to both the potatoes and the turkey. No, I’m not giving you a suggestion of how much, because we like heat and I’m pretty sure our teaspoon each is too much for some. On the cumin… literally, a dusting on the potatoes and the turkey.

If you too like sweet potato and ground turkey, you have to try what we call “Sarah’s sweet potato chili.” (No, Sarah isn’t the blogger/cook, but she shared the recipe with me, and so…) The only personalized touch to that one is we DO add beans, whatever white beans happen to be in the pantry. Drain and rinse the beans, but don’t get hung up on the turkey amount; I have stressed because my favorite grocery store tends to only have ground turkey in 16 oz. packs, and especially with the can of beans in there, you don’t miss it. Sure, use the 20 oz. pack if it’s available, but both recipes work with 16 oz. of turkey too.

Back to housework and taxes. What’s on your weekend agenda?

Dusting off

So much for writing more, more often.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I bet you can avoid the path to settling by dusting yourself off and doing it later rather than not at all. Good intentions are dreams deferred. No one means to abandon her plans; we all INTEND to get back at it just as soon as the obstacles stop knocking us down.

The secret is not to wait for perfect timing, not to hold out for the ideal circumstances. Yeah, if it’s meant to be it will be, but objects in motion tend to stay in motion. So here I am, exhaling and making a moment to write, even though I still have laundry to do, even though dinner isn’t going to make itself.

Better late than never. Inch by inch… whatever your favorite “little engine that could” mantra is, practice it. I know I need to, and now that I’ve taken a little action, held myself accountable, I’m going to hit “publish” and go start dinner.

Sweet potato cottage pie. Maybe I’ll report back on how it goes; it’s a new recipe in this house.

Ghosts of Valentines Past

I’m showing up. I’m writing. But more importantly, my mindset is better today. Whatever was pulling me down is gone. I’m back to feeling freer and happier, despite the mound of laundry staring me down. I need to hang and fold and put away, but I really needed to get out and enjoy the unseasonable warmth and sweat a little with Gretchen. So… I did. Now, we’re getting ready to settle in for the Superbowl.

It’s a new month and my new favorite month. I’ve disliked Valentine’s Day since at least Kindergarten. I remember arguing with my mother and anyone else who would listen about the ridiculousness of being forced to send a sappy card to every single person in my class. Fair?! No way! Early on, I valued candor highly and had no desire to give bullies little hearts that said they were the cat’s meow or whatever. One or both of my parents ended up buying several of those class-sized boxes, so I had enough simple “Happy Valentine’s Day!” versions to placate my young forthright heart… and mouth.

Fast-forward to middle school or junior high, or whatever it was called where you were. Early teenage angst and insecurities were blown out of proportion when some well-meaning (and wise marketing) adults agreed the French Club should/could sell giant flowers made of dime store tissue paper and thin wire. I think it was white, red and yellow, each with a different meaning. I bought as many yellow (friendship) flowers as my dear ol’ Dad would finance, and sure enough, kids were counting flowers and making fun of those who got none as soon as the flower deliveries started. I hated it. I hated getting flowers from people I didn’t send them to, I hated having more flowers than some friends, and I’m sure I didn’t like having fewer flowers than the super-popular ones either.

Adulthood, even as one of the only female firefighters, was no better. The entire shift watched to see if I got flowers, from whom, and on the off chance I was not working on the dreaded day, I was still grilled before and after about my plans, any gifts received, etc. And yeah, I still hated getting flowers or candy from the wrong person, with the whole dang shift standing there watching.

Last year, I went to the beach and avoided it all. This year, I’ve decided that pink and red are two of my favorite colors, I’ve long used a heart of some sort to sign cards, even in digital signatures, so why shouldn’t I ditch the ghosts of Valentine’s Days past and celebrate love? It’s also a special friend’s birthday, so personally, I’m going to celebrate that and whip up a ton of red velvet brownies with cream cheese icing and take the day as it comes. In fact, I’m going to enjoy the whole, short little month, because February and I are both short and we both look good in pink and red.

Do you struggle with any holidays?

Showing up

I don’t know where that originated, but I found it on a knitting/spinning friend’s Facebook page a few days ago. It made me happy… because I can relate, and because I can’t even aspire to be Glenda the Good Witch. I am quintessentially Dorothy, complete with the little terrier in my basket bounding down the Yellow Brick Road, but I have also spent years explaining to folks that I really am more comfortable “dressed up” vs. super casual.

Thank you for those kind words on my last post. I’m flattered and amazed that you not only still follow and read, but you remember dreams, random comments, thoughts shared on all the different blogs over the years. I am going to take Kath’s advice and show up more. I miss reading and writing every single day, but I’m also going to take a business mentor’s advice and give myself grace; I most certainly do have a lot going on. So I’m going to show up here more, write more, and heaven only knows what you might read here!

I suppose I have been honing my “just show up” skills in the gym. I haven’t competed in well over a year. Some of that is injury/recovery related. Some of it is (lack of?) a life balance issue, but in spite of the reasons and myself, sometimes amazing progress happens just by showing up.

We’ll stick with the gym, knowing it is an analogy for life in general. While I’ve been not following a serious training program, not getting in the gym 5 days a week, my squat has held its own. In fact, a gym friend shared with me a few days ago that I’m still a state record holder from two years ago! I can’t even defend the record because I’ve aged out of that division. My bench has gotten stronger, as has my deadlift. In addition, I’ve added all kinds of tricks to my bag; I can now do pushups without modifications in almost any quantity. I can do *A* single pull-up, and I’m working on turning that into a string of them.

I haven’t done any real running in more than 3 years, but my half-mile time was stronger than ever (well… in the past 20 years or so?) this summer, and Gretchen and I can still run at a 10 minute mile pace whenever her little heart desires. All of this is proof that just showing up can yield gains, however underwhelming they might be, so why not apply that here too?

Lastly, there’s exhibit C… the little fur-princess herself. Y’all may recall how stressful car rides have been for Gretchen Greer, but she always came anyway, because she’d rather be anxious as can be with us than be left behind. Progress was slow, painfully so, but here she is at almost 11.5 years, just hanging out in one of the beds in the back seat. She didn’t even pop up when I made turns, when I announced that we were almost home. She was content,chilling in her little nest.

Evidently, just showing up can lead to big accomplishments, so look for me to show up here more, even if I don’t have time, don’t have much to say.

About me

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams, goals and my “tribe.” Everything, everywhere, is challenging me to dream, make goals, etc. Frankly, it’s a little uncomfortable to even share that much, so … that means I need to keep grinding. (Aside: that’s how I’ve been addressing my workouts for several months; if it is difficult or makes me uncomfortable, I need to do more of it, more often.) Makes sense to apply that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” logic here too, right?

The big, over-arching dream is easy; it hasn’t changed since about age four (for real!) – I want to be a writer. Now, I clearly am a writer; I won my first story contest in first or second grade, I was published in a national publication in high school, and… well, this is writing, right? So obviously, that one needs some fine-tuning, some measurable goals, etc., because just BEING about writing in a casual way isn’t cutting it anymore.

We’ll come back to that. Not today, or maybe not even this year, but remind me, and we’ll nail that one down one of these days. At the moment, I’m more … challenged? drawn to? unable to escape from? the harder to articulate “what are you trying to do/say?” or “what do you want to be known for?”

Think social media. Think the “about” sections here, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It makes me as uncomfortable as writing the “mission statement” at the top of my resume. Why do I keep putting pieces of myself out here? What am I trying to accomplish?

Here’s what I do know; I’m a good story-teller, even if I do run on like a bad run-on sentence sometimes, even if I do make James Joyce look like he didn’t know how to do stream of consciousness well at all. (I have loved him and Portrait of An Artist… since the first time I read the opening paragraph. “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo”)

… and yet, I can’t give you three words or things I want to be known for. Dogs and pearls are also life-long identifiers (along with writing), and those of you who have followed me from ChanKnits to here (and how many blogs in between?!) already know I’ve had a knitting phase, a running phase, a competitive powerlifting phase, and I’ve dabbled with spinning, handbag obsessions, Lily P, obsessive reading and more.

Could I just keep on spitting in the social media wind just because it seems like the thing to do? Sure, and some of you dear, supportive folks would keep on following along – and I love you for that – but see the opener… I do have dreams and goals and we all know I lost myself for at least a decade, maybe two, and … I need a plan, because I need to get to where I feel driven to go.

In an ideal world, on a sunny, warm afternoon at a local winery, Starbucks or somewhere on the Downtown Mall, I’d assemble my local tribe and we’d talk, laugh, roll our eyes and I’d take notes and have a vision at the end of it all. Or maybe Marjie, Krystle and I could meet at Carriage Corner, and gMarie would have time to join us in a friendly little brain-storming session that would make things clearer. I could keep going with more and more names, because each of you has helped me along the way, and I count you all as friends. But the simple truth is, life is hectic and that isn’t likely to happen in even one instance…

So, dear, trusted reader friends, give me words and phrases. I’m not a mom – although I think Nichole, Susan and Sue make an argument for dog moms being some of the most selfless, wise women I know. I’m not a wife, and despite “years in residence” I don’t know that I ever really walked that walk the way many wives do, so two of the identifiers most women hang their hats on don’t work for me.

Here’s what I do know:

  • I admire and connect with courageous women with compelling stories
  • I am physically strong and enjoy a good sweat/physical challenge
  • I love knowledge for its own sake
  • I would rather cheer for you than blow my own horn
  • Authenticity matters, especially when dealing with the woman in the mirror
  • I need to be needed, but in a healthy way – if that makes sense?
  • My dog is family
  • There are no coincidences

I await your comments.